New York— An eleventh-hour attempt was made to dissuade Russia from sending troops into Ukraine at the Security Council meeting. Yet even as the message was being delivered, it proved ineffective.
As the United Nations was urging Russia to back off – “Give peace a chance,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres exhorted – Russian President Vladimir Putin went on television in his homeland to announce a military operation to protect civilians in Ukraine.
Several Ukrainian cities were hit by missiles on Thursday after Russian forces landed on its coast, officials and media reported, after President Vladimir Putin authorized what he called a special military operation in the east.
On the eve of dawn in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, explosions were heard in the quiet pre-dawn hours following Putin’s address on Russian state television.
The Interfax news agency reported sirens over the capital after gunfire was heard near its main airport.
“Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes,” Deputy Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.
“This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now.“
Russia’s leader warned other countries that interfering with its operations would have “consequences they have never seen.”
In a televised meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin said rebels in eastern Ukraine had requested military assistance from Moscow. This month, Russia holds the rotating presidency of the council. Approximately half an hour later, it became apparent that Russia was laying the groundwork for war.
“It’s too late, my dear colleagues, to speak about de-escalation,” Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told the council. “I call on every one of you to do everything possible to stop the war.”
In a spontaneous exchange that is rarely seen in the council chamber, Kyslytsya challenged his Russian counterpart to affirm that his country was not bombing and shelling Ukraine at that moment or moving troops into it.
“You have a smartphone. You can call officials in Moscow”, Kyslytsya said. “I have already said all I know at this point,” Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia responded.
It’s not a war, he said, but a “special military operation.” He insisted he didn’t intend to awaken Russia’s foreign minister. The description was dismissed by Kyslytsya as “lunatic semantics.“
Members of the council delivered speeches that were immediately out of date at the second emergency meeting on Ukraine this week. Some ultimately reacted in a second round of hastily added remarks.
As the United States awaited an invasion it had predicted for weeks, President Joe Biden expressed his prayers for Ukraine’s people “as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack“, vowing tough sanctions in return.
“I will be meeting with the leaders of the G7, and the United States and our allies and partners will be imposing severe sanctions on Russia,” Biden said in a statement.
“At the exact time as we are gathered in the council seeking peace, Putin delivered a message of war, in total disdain for the responsibility of this council,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.
She added that a draft resolution would be circulated to the council Thursday.
A European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private, said that if the resolution is adopted, Russia will be found to be in violation of the UN Charter, international law, and the council resolution on Ukraine of 2015. An immediate return to compliance by Russia would be required by the resolution, the diplomat said.